Let me tell you a story about the most stressful month of my career. Maybe, my life.
It began with uncertainty and unpredictability, and ended with euphoria.
And an addition to our family.
Starting mid-November, the Silvertips were set for a two-game road trip against the Prince George Cougars, a destination nine-and-a-half hours away from Everett – not just where the Silvertips play, but also the residence of (what was) my family of three – including my wife, nearly full-term pregnant. As it was her second pregnancy, medical expertise suggested our baby boy to be would possibly come early.
Six hours into the trip (we stopped in Kamloops, overnight, en route to Prince George), my wife begins feeling contractions.
She asked me home, anticipating possible labor. Home I went.
We went through the next week with four games in five days, phone and back-up announcers ready.
The week of Thanksgiving was beyond unpredictable. I stayed home from Tri-City with the pass presenting treacherous conditions (and 3.5 hours of a return drive – minimum – risking my return too late for our son’s birth). Then on Friday vs. Spokane, Amy was admitted to the hospital with a medical emergency – another condition that likely accelerates labor.
Saturday vs. Vancouver: maybe the scariest day of my life.
(No labor, either).
Without presenting the details to ensure the privacy of my firstborn son down the road, a serious medical emergency pulled me away from game preparation at 12:15pm. Lukas needed to go to the hospital, and he needed all of us there, within the family. One check-out at 3:30 pm sent him home after the scare. Another check-in was necessary at 7:05pm at Providence Medical Center, and we finally went home for good at 10:00pm – just over the same length it took for the Tips to defeat Vancouver, 5-2.
We reached Amy’s due date this past Tuesday, the same night as the Silveritps Hockey Show.
The next day was our preferred induction date, but then were told by medical professionals that labor inducing needed to wait until Monday, Dec. 4 unless Amy was thrown into another serious medical condition.
Well, we didn’t have to wait long though. It was finally “go time” on Thursday morning.
Upon check-in at Providence Medical Center, Liam safely entered the world.
We could prepare for so much that would surround the big day, but the journey there was nearly unpredictable. This is where “life happens.”
My passion for the broadcast booth and the nightly enjoyment of Silvertips fans wanted me in there each and every game, but in a world where many of us live by the mantra “family first,” I needed to be there as a Dad – first and foremost.
That’s why as the Benton clan has grown to four, I couldn’t get back into the broadcast booth, full swing without giving big thank yous:
- Dan Todoroff: Tips in-arena emcee, and day-job as director of operations, for taking on the brave task of two games filling in for play-by-play – and two more in a color analysis role.
- Dave Sheldon: The former full-time Tips color analyst, and Chilliwack radio voice, for filling in the two games at Prince George when we had a false alarm. He’s a pro.
- Countless members of the front office: Katrina Koontz, Nicole Proulx, Joel Anderson, Sarah Roetcisoender, Kelsie Noble, Zack Bradford, Staci C. to start. In the light of an absence from work, they were willing and embracing of the possibility to help fill in the gaps behind the scenes.
- Zoran Rajcic: Our fearless boss, who communicates the importance of “family first,” and allows people to focus on those responsibilities when the needs arise. He demonstrated incredible patience and heartwarming empathy. He’s a tremendous boss.
- Extended family: Grandfather Bob VanderWal, Grandmother Lavonne VanderWal, Brother-In-Law Jason VanderWal – for agreeing to move the arrival date up a few days from California to help with the final stages of pregnancy and family responsibilities attached to the big event.
- The Team: For the congratulations, asking with interest how the baby and Mom were doing, and even an appreciated invite to bowling. It helped take the mind off a lot of things.
- You, dear listener: For being flexible when I projected a return to the booth after absence, and it stayed in a continuous “day-to-day” status.
- Lastly: my wife, Amy … she’s a warrior (no epidural for either delivery), she’s understanding of my responsibilities, and she’s not afraid to ask when she needs the extra help.
Thanks for keeping your ear to the dial with the names above helping fill the gaps, and for your patience with my return to the booth. I was thrilled to be back for Teddy Bear Toss – the 999th game behind the hockey mic in my career.
(#1,000 will be Wednesday night vs. Portland.)
More importantly – family is happy and healthy. The tears of joy that flooded my face when Liam arrived felt like the size of Puget Sound.
About the little guy? He’s strong, a tad quieter than Lukas, but already has Mom and Dad in his physical features.
Can’t wait to bring Amy, Lukas, and Liam to a game near you.
Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton recently is in his third season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 13th in the game. Tweet at him here.